The FCC recently issued a report stating that 14 to 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband. When you look at the precarious situation the FCC is in right now, you have to take the results with a pinch of salt.
The FCC is being attacked on all sides, including by members of Congress, because it has stated its intention to reclassify broadband access under Title II (the rules drafted during the last century to regulate your telephone service). They have also stated their intention, to regulate how your Internet Service Provider can manage its network. By doing so, the FCC has plans to turn itself into the Internet Police, regulating all Internet traffic. Of course this will bring resistance!
In this particular circumstance, the FCC has modified the way that it conducts its internet penetration study, and modified the speed requirement to at least 4 megabits per second downstream. This suddenly conjures up a significantly larger group of Americans that do not currently have broadband access.
What the FCC fails to take into account is the dramatic growth in broadband penetration since it became the preferred way to connect to the Web. Internet Usage has grown from 44.1% in 2000 to 74.1% in 2009. An August 2009 report shows that in Internet penetration growth in rural areas exceeded that of metropolitan ones.
The FCC also fails to take into account that pursuant to a June 2010 report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the “US leads the world in total broadband subscribers with over 81 million people subscribed to broadband as of December 2009 (see Figure 3). The US has more than 2.5 times the broadband subscribers as Japan at 32 million subscribers. Germany (25M), France (20M), and the UK (18M) round out the top 5 countries surveyed.” Another report shows that rural broadband penetration reached 81 percent in 2009, an increase of 13% in 12 months as a result of efforts made by regional (not national) ISPs.
All of these improvements are made as a result of several factors, among the key ones, access to capital and financing. Should the FCC continue on its ill advise course to assert its jurisdiction over broadband networks, it will destabilize the regulatory and economic structure that has led to these significant improvements.
I agree with the FCC that everyone needs to do more in order to reach ubiquitous broadband Internet access. However I disagree on the path they have undertaken to reach that goal.
I can also state that painting an incomplete picture of the broadband market, by specifically minimizing the importance of significant growth in the rural areas, will not help them drive their point home.